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Early Childhood Caries – Causes & Treatment

Table of Contents


What is Early Childhood Caries?

What is Early Childhood Caries

As one of the most faddish and prevalent diseases amongst 6-year-old children, early childhood caries or ECC is a condition that involves the development of multiple cavities in the first set of teeth. 

These are cavities that grow on an infant’s upper front set of teeth. However, they may affect other teeth as well. If you were to take a closer look at the disease, you will notice that it tends to build near the child’s gum line initially in the form of white spots. 

Although they are quite hard to see, when diagnosed at an early stage by Pediatric dentists  they can be prevented from the development of cavities. 

Furthermore, this problem persists in the children of developing and underdeveloped countries, as well as a spectrum of social variables. 

Multiple factors cause this disease among children. Below are some of the major causes for Early Childhood Caries.

Causes of Early Childhood Caries

Causes of Early Childhood Caries

As mentioned above, there are numerous causes for early childhood caries. They are often multifactorial. 

Let us take a look at some of the major causes of ECC to gain a deeper understanding of its diagnosis. 

1. Diet

Diet that can lead to caries

One of the key factors that cause ECC amongst children is their diet and food habits. Children who tend to consume excessive amounts of sugar and high-fat foods have a higher risk of developing caries. These could be in the form of candies, sweet beverages, etc. 

2. Social Strata

Social Strata and dental health in kids

When speaking about the various causes for Early Childhood Caries, it is important to recognize the role of socioeconomic status.   Children that come from poor families are often prone to this disease, as they cannot afford professional health care services, and often live in poor living standards.

Besides, they are often malnourished, yielding to the development of various diseases including ECC. 

3. Plaque

Dental plaque

Another major cause for Early Childhood Caries is plaque. In its basic sense, dental plaque is a polymicrobial biofilm. Plaque is more common when there is a malocclusion in kids which can be corrected using dental braces by an Orthodontist. If not removed regularly, it may damage your teeth, causing gum diseases, tooth decay, and tartar accumulation. 

4. Mutans Streptococci (MS)

Mutans Streptococci and early childhood caries

The last but not the least cause of Early Childhood Caries is Mutans Streptococci or MS. This type of anaerobic bacterium is often considered to be an important pathogen for the development of dental caries. 

In the case of infants, ECC may occur through bacterial infection if MS is transferred from the mother to the child. According to many pediatric dentists mothers of young toddlers who don’t maintain healthy dental hygiene may be at a higher risk of transmitting the MS to their child, causing them to be prone to Early Childhood Caries. 


Treatment For Early Childhood Caries

Treatment For Early Childhood Caries

ECC is a disease that can be treated. However, it is recommended to carry out an early diagnosis with your child’s pediatric dentist. The American association of pediatric dentistry (AAPD) recommends the Childs first visit to the dentist should be when the first tooth appears.

If ECC is detected early, then the cavities found in the child’s primary teeth can be filled easily by their pediatric dentist

However, if the degree of damage is quite severe, then your doctor may go for sleep dentistry or sedation to keep your child at ease. This can either be administered in a hospital or a medical office. Examples of such treatment include tooth replacements, root canals, etc. 


Prevention For Early Childhood Caries

Prevention For Early Childhood Caries

Early childhood caries are often avoided or cured by incorporating various steps and routines to maintain a healthy oral lifestyle and dental hygiene care at home for kids

Below are a few ways that will help you tackle Early childhood caries for you and your child. 

1. Modify Dietary Needs and Requirements

Modify dietary needs and requirements for healthy teeth

As mentioned above, one of the primary causes of ECC according to pedodontics is a poor diet. Therefore, to treat your child’s Early Childhood Caries, it is important to implement proper infant feeding techniques and a healthy diet. 

One such technique is to adapt to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding helps to lower the risk of caries in babies, as it contains essential nutrients and vitamins for the baby. 

Additionally, children should be emboldened to eat a healthy amalgamation of foods to obtain the proper ratio of essential nutrients. This combination could include foods such as staple foods like cereals and root vegetables, fruits, dairy products, lentils, beans, etc.

 They should try to avoid any type of diet that is rich in sugars such as unsweetened natural juices. The consumption of sugars boosts the risks for the development of ECC.

2. Increase Fluoride Exposure

Fluoride varnish prevents dental caries in kids

Another way to treat Early Childhood Caries is to increase your child’s exposure to fluoride products such as fluoride treatment & varnish application. 

In the vast field of dentistry, fluoride is an essential component that helps reduce the severity and prevalence of dental caries. 

There are two main ways to implement fluoride into your routine for the prevention of dental caries. The first method is through systemic exposure. In this method, fluorides are often mixed with drinking water to create a safe, effective measure for individuals. 

Individuals can also obtain ample amounts of fluoride through milk. This is a cost-effective solution if a community has a well-structured milk delivery system. 

On the contrary, fluoride exposure can also be explained in terms of topical exposure. It is often recommended by professionals to encourage your child to brush their teeth at least twice a day with a good quality fluoride toothpaste. 

3. Increase Awareness

Dental health awareness for kids

Even though the primary causes for Early Childhood Caries are inadequate fluoride exposure, poor oral hygiene, and the consumption of free sugars, other reasons include behavior and the interaction with the environment. 

In simpler terms, children tend to emulate their elders and parents. Therefore, to reduce the risk of Early Childhood Caries, it is a necessity to educate and create an awareness of proper oral health. 

As one of the causes for ECC is the lack of proper dental knowledge, it is important to educate society about the various methods of boosting their oral health such as exposure to fluoride and regular toothbrushing. Special kids need extra care as they usually tend to have a lack of dental care awareness. 

Furthermore, it demands addressing the various economic and social factors that are encountered by families impacted by ECC. Individuals should receive free health care without any financial hardships.


From the above discussion, it is quite apparent that Early Childhood Caries are an oral disease that can be cured and avoided when a healthy lifestyle is maintained. To sum it up, it is a multifactorial disease and can be treated by implementing steps of kids’ dental care. 


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